Two hundred and thirty-nine years ago (almost to the day), two of my 6th-great-grandfathers took a bold step. The spring of 1775 had brought troubled times to the American colonies. Relations with Great Britain had grown increasingly strained. In early April 1775, the battles at Concord and Lexington confirmed that there was no turning back. The rumblings of discontent had sprouted into outright confrontation, and the American Revolution was underway.
Patriots in Virginia, as in other colonies, quickly formed local militia companies to protect their homes and fight for the cause of American independence. Jacob Roush and Philip Roush were among the men who enlisted in the Dunmore County Militia, under the command of Capt. Jacob Holeman, on May 29, 1775.
I first found evidence of Jacob and Philip’s service as I worked on my application for the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR uses the transcription of Jacob Holeman’s enlistment roster in Revolutionary War Records Virginia by Gaius M. Brumbaugh as its source. This is an excellent derivative source, and I’m grateful for it. But as genealogists, we’re urged to seek the original source whenever possible. So that’s what I did when I visited the Library of Virginia during the recent NGS 2014 Conference in Richmond.
Wow. What a thrill to see the list itself! (Even though it’s a negative photostat, and still technically a derivative, it's as close as I’m ever likely to get to the original.) Somehow, holding it made the excitement of that long-ago time, and the power of the commitment these men made, seem like a tangible thing to me. It was no small thing to fly in the face of the royal government and pledge your loyalty to the colonial militia. Their lives, and the security of their families and livelihoods, were on the line.
The two-page document is titled, “A List of the Mens Names in Dunmore County Militia under the Command of Capt. Jacob Holeman.” On the second page, after the names, is the official decree: “By Virtue of the Power and Authority to me given as Lieutenant of the County of Dunmore I do hereby Enlist the with Nam’d Men under the Command of Capt Jacob Holeman. Given under my hand this 29th day of May 1775.” (I’m still working to decipher the flowery signature of the official who signed it.)
A few of my observations about the list, some of which aren’t readily apparent from the transcription in Brumbaugh’s book:
- The men are listed in three columns. All names on the first page are written in the same clearly legible handwriting; there are no signatures. A few names are crossed out, as though they were later removed from the roster. On the second page are 15 more names, written in a different hand, that appear to have been added after the official declaration.
- In Brumbaugh’s transcription, the names are in alphabetical order, and the last name is given first (i.e., Roush, Jacob and Roush, Philip). On the original list, the names appear to be in the order that the men presented themselves. They are not in alphabetical order, and the first name comes first, just as it would be said aloud.
- While many of these men were German, the spellings of their names were anglicized, probably according to how the scribe heard them. Rausch, which morphed into Roush, is spelled Rouse in four places here (brothers Philip, Jacob, Henry, and John Jr.). Zirkle, commonly seen as Circle, is spelled Cirkle (Andrew, Michael, and Peter). The surname Durst, which became Darst in later generations, is spelled Dirst (Abraham and Isaac—Abraham Durst is my 7th-great-grandfather). Clearly, spellings were not yet standardized.
- Crease lines are evident, indicating the document was folded. A portion of the second page bears the address, “To Capt. Jacob Holman Dunmore County,” as though it was to be delivered to him. (no “e” in Holman in the address)
I’ve heard we should seek the original record for the sake of accuracy and completeness. That’s fine and well, but from my experience, I’d add: do it for the sense of connection it gives you. Seeing an original document brings your family history alive in a way that a published transcription simply can’t do. And sometimes that history is just so cool, isn’t it?
© Copyright 2014 Shelley Bishop
The “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” series is coordinated by Amy Johnson Crow, CG, author of the blog No Story Too Small.
 Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, Revolutionary War Records Virginia (1936; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1995), p. 607-608.
 Shenandoah County, Virginia, Dunmore County Militia Roster, Captain Jacob Holeman’s Company, 1775; accession no. 21127, “Dunmore County Revolutionary War papers, 1775-1814,” Box 53, 2 leaves; Library of Virginia, Richmond.